[We reprint below three items from the Internet relating
to the crisis situation in
[The second item provides more
historical background on Benazir Bhutto’s
[The third item, by “sg,” discussing the historical background and social forces involved in the PPP, was posted Dec. 28 on the Marxmail discussion group.]
1. (From Democracy Now)—
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis
[on Dec. 28] attended the funeral of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has blamed
Islamic militants for carrying out the assassination, but several associates of
Bhutto have accused Musharraf himself of having a
role. In an e-mail sent to a confidant in the
Rush Transcript Follows:
acclaimed British-Pakistani historian, activist, and commentator joins us now
on the phone from
JUAN GONZALEZ: Benazir
Bhutto, the twice-elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, has just been buried in
Hundreds of thousands of people
gathered in her ancestral village for her funeral, despite a long night of
violence. As news of Bhutto’s death rippled across the country,
Benazir Bhutto, the fifty-four-year-old mother of three, comes from a family steeped in both politics and tragedy. Her father Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was a democratically elected populist leader in the 1970s who was executed by the military regime of General Zia-ul-Haq in 1979. One of her brothers was poisoned, and another shot to death.
AMY GOODMAN: Bhutto returned to
Bhutto spoke out against the bombing and said she believes government officials might have been involved in the attack.
BENAZIR BHUTTO: We want to avoid bloodshed. We want to avoid loss of life. But I also want to say that if it means sacrificing our lives, if it means sacrificing our liberty to save Pakistan and to save democracy, because we believe democracy alone can save Pakistan from disintegration and a militant takeover, then we are prepared to risk our lives, and we are prepared to risk our liberty. But we are not prepared to surrender our great nation to the militants.
AMY GOODMAN: Benazir
Bhutto, speaking in October after escaping a suicide bombing attempt. President
Musharraf expressed his condolences to Bhutto’s
family on Thursday after the assassination and announced a three-day period of
mourning. He blamed “terrorists” for the attack and said terrorism is the
country’s “biggest hurdle” [not mentioning the military dictatorships, including
his own, that have dominated
PRESIDENT PERVEZ MUSHARRAF: [translated]
I have always said that the biggest threat to
AMY GOODMAN: Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf condemning the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Nawaz Sharif, once Bhutto’s staunch political rival, also a former prime minister, visited the hospital shortly after Bhutto died. He blamed President Musharraf for allowing the “lapses in security” and announced that he would boycott the elections.
Three hours before the attack on
Bhutto, gunfire killed four supporters of Nawaz Sharif in a rally outside
NAWAZ SHARIF: [translated] The attacks on the two biggest national political parties on the same day indicate the intention of Musharraf. It was a preconceived conspiracy. Now this fully proves that there can be no free elections in Musharraf’s presence. The chaos and killings cannot stop [while] Musharraf is there. There can be no peace in his presence, and the Federation of Pakistan cannot stand firm. And there is no doubt of that. In these circumstances, we have decided that after the barbaric killing of Benazir Bhutto, we are going to boycott the elections.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif announcing his boycott of the elections scheduled for January 8th. The government, however, has reportedly said it will go ahead with the elections.
President Bush also denounced the attack Thursday and held “murderous extremists” responsible.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: The United
States strongly condemns this cowardly act by murderous extremists who are
trying to undermine
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush condemning the assassination of the former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
For the latest update on
MANAN AHMED: Thank you for having
me, Amy. The latest that’s being reported through national and local media in
JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Manan, given the forty-day mourning period declared by the People’s Party, how could the government even be considering going ahead with these elections, as we’re only talking about a little bit more than a week from now?
MANAN AHMED: Right. That’s absolutely right. You know, it’s very hard to imagine an election taking place with campaigning and candidates standing, in the sense that if the government decides to go through with it, then the only clear indication would be that PLM-Q, the sort of pro-government, pro-Musharraf party, has been put specifically in power. So the election, for all purposes, would appear to be rigged.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go now
to Britain to Tariq Ali, the British Pakistani
historian, activist, commentator, one of the editors of the New Left Review, author
of more than a dozen books, who was recently back in Pakistan, where he was
born [and raised]. Tariq, talk about your response on
Thursday when you heard the news, and talk about why Benazir
Bhutto returned to
TARIQ ALI: Well, Amy, my first reaction was anger. I was livid that Bush and his acolytes in Britain had fixed this deal, pushing her to do a deal with Musharraf, forcing her to play a role, which, of course, she agreed to do-—it has to be admitted-— [a role] which she was not capable of playing. She made some extremely injudicious remarks, saying that she would go back, that she was the only person who could deal with terrorism, etc., etc. The fact was that this was not the case.
And, you know, I wrote at the time that it is a big, big problem when you try and arrange a political marriage between two parties who loathe each other. And so, Musharraf very rapidly, after her return, embarrassed her by instituting a state of emergency. And she then didn’t know whether to defend the state of emergency; finally, she attacked it. So the whole situation was a complete mess.
And now, everyone in
I mean, I think Musharraf’s days are numbered. I don’t think he will be, even if he has this fake election in a week or ten days’ time, which Bush is forcing him to do-—I mean, I cannot understand, for the life of me, how the President of the United States can be so isolated and remote from reality as to insist that an election goes ahead when one of the central political leaders in the country, backed by Washington, has just been assassinated. I mean, what the hell are they going to achieve from this election? Nothing. It will not give legitimacy to anyone. It will create, possibly very rapidly afterwards, a new crisis, and then they will have to have a new military leader stepping in…
AMY GOODMAN: For our radio
listeners, you can go to our website to see the video images that we show
throughout the broadcast today on
JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, I’d like to ask
Tariq Ali, I was struck by your counter-posing the
physical courage of Benazir Bhutto with some of the
lack of political courage. And this is something that you’ve remarked in many
of your articles in the past, including interviews you
had with her. I remember one article where you talked about a 1988 interview, I
think it was, that you had with her when she was prime
minister and how she [said she] was hemmed in by the political forces in
TARIQ ALI: Well, Juan, this is absolutely right, and it’s been her tragedy and the country’s tragedy. When she came to power, elected for the first time, it is absolutely true she was hemmed in by the military on one side and an old rogue of a bureaucrat who had been made president on the other.
And she told me very openly, “I
can’t do anything.” And I said to her at the time in the Prime Minister’s house
And I think by this time she had become a very different person politically from what she had been earlier and had decided that she didn’t want to be on “the wrong side of history,” so to speak. She more or less said that to me. And she…thought that the only way to survive in this world was basically to do the bidding of the army at home and Washington abroad, two institutions which had led to the—which had basically bumped off her dad in 1979 and which were not going to do her any favors.
AMY GOODMAN: Tariq, explain that, how her father died and who was involved in his assassination, in his execution.
TARIQ ALI: Her father was probably
the most popular politician in
He implemented some of his reforms,
[but] not all, [then] became extremely autocratic, clashed with the
That’s what Bhutto wrote from his
death cell. The
coup d’etat. General Zia-ul-Haq
took power in 1977, organized a trial against Bhutto, charging him with an absurd
charge of murdering someone. The judges were pressured, and they found him
guilty, and Bhutto was hanged in April 1979. It could not have happened without
And Bhutto, from his death cell, wrote
a very moving document called “If I Am Assassinated,” in which he said there
are “two hegemonies”—these are his words. He said, “There are two hegemonies
that dominate our country. One is an internal hegemony, and the other is an
external hegemony. And unless we challenge the external hegemony, we will never
be able to deal with the internal one,” meaning
And unfortunately, his daughter decided to collaborate with both of these “hegemonies.” One has to say this. Her second period in office was a total disaster, because not only did she do nothing for the poor, her natural constituency, but basically it became an extremely corrupt government, and she and her husband accumulated $1.5 billion through corruption. This is well known to everyone.
Now, when the
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask Manan Ahmed about that, as well. She is being obviously lionized, especially in the U.S. press, as a martyr, and she was considered, among the leaders, the potential leaders of Pakistan, the one that would most go after terrorism or extremism, but she herself, when she was in her second period as prime minister, helped back the Taliban in Afghanistan, didn’t she?
MANAN AHMED: Yes, that’s right. I
mean, there was a history of political deals made not just in
The key, I think, here—just as Tariq Ali has pointed out—is that the emphasis on her being
the sole democratic sort of voice in Pakistan is belied simply by the events of
2007, when, in Pakistan since March, the lawyers and civil society have
participated in a mass movement for judicial rights, rights of the judiciary, for
democratic practices. And this is a movement which had nothing to do with Benazir Bhutto in any shape as an ideologue or as a leader.
This was a true movement of democratic reform that
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s talk for a
minute about Benazir Bhutto returning. The Washington
Post reports the
BENAZIR BHUTTO: As far as my understanding with General Musharraf is concerned, the ban on the twice-elected prime minister must go before the election period kicks in. And if that ban does not go, then obviously the agreement is not there.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Benazir Bhutto in August. Tariq
Ali, you begin an extended piece that you wrote over this
twenty-four hours by talking about who in
TARIQ ALI: Well, yeah. I mean, John Negroponte was the ghoulish go-between fixing up—trying to fix up the marriage between Benazir and Musharraf, backed, as always, by the ever-loyal acolytes in the British Foreign Office, who were also pushing this deal without any real understanding, in my opinion, of what was going on in the country [of Pakistan] or what that country needed.
And essentially, Amy, one has to
ask the question, what was the desperation? The notion that the Jihadis in
The real crisis is a crisis in
So this is what is going on, and
they needed a politician in
So they were the key players, and
they, ’til now, have been backing Musharraf. And they
backed Musharraf’s decision to impose an emergency, which
completely pulled the rug from underneath Benazir’s
feet. And it’s at this point that the
AMY GOODMAN: Our top story
yesterday, before we learned of Benazir Bhutto’s
TARIQ ALI: Well, this is totally
true, and why are they surprised? It’s been happening for years. You know, I
remember during the war in
I mean, essentially, the Pakistani
military—or sections inside the Pakistani military—have never gotten used to
the idea that they are no longer strong in Afghanistan, that they no longer
control Kabul, and they believe that after NATO leaves, they’ll take it back. And
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask Manan Ahmed, the day that President Musharraf
declared his state of the emergency a couple of months ago,
there was a long article in the New York Times. Buried at the very end of that
article on the coup within a coup, in essence, was the result of a public
opinion poll that had been conducted by a Washington firm in Pakistan, which
showed that President Musharraf had a popularity
rating slightly better than George Bush, but not much, but that Osama bin Laden
was viewed favorably by more than 40% of the Pakistani people, an astounding
figure, in my mind. And I’m wondering, your sense of this continued unrest and
MANAN AHMED: I think—I mean, part of the quote/unquote “threat” of, you know, an Islamist Pakistan is rather overblown. The recent history, both electoral politics and political discourse in the country, clearly points [to the fact] that the Islamists have not been able to gather much support, even, you know, despite the sort of polls [you mentioned] about Osama bin Laden and George Bush.
But that’s not to say that in the
last two years there hasn’t been a marked increase in lack of stability and
sort of, you know, what the Pakistani press calls foreign intervention in the
areas in Baluchistan, which is a separatist crisis, a crisis of federal versus
state rights—it’s a very real crisis with a long history—and in the sort of
northwestern regions, Sawat, Peshawar. So there is
something to the fact that militants, whether within
Now, the military, of course, has
the means and the power to deal with them. And the military has been trying to
do so—with great casualties, I must add, in the last two years. But the basic
point is that Musharraf lacks legitimacy [in the eyes
of] the people of
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Manan Ahmed, historian of modern
Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of thousands of people have come out to mourn the death of Benazir Bhutto, the former Pakistani prime minister. She was assassinated yesterday. Our guests are Tariq Ali, British Pakistani historian, activist, commentator, who knew Benazir Bhutto; and Manan Ahmed, historian of modern Pakistan and South Asian Islam.
Another part of our headlines
yesterday, before the assassination, was a top headline from the Washington
Post reporting that U.S. Special Forces were expecting to vastly expand their
TARIQ ALI: Well, I think, you know,
the significance of this is that the
Now, this crisis and instability in
And the reason they’re refusing to
open fire is because for the last twenty-five years this ideology implanted in
their heads when they’re being trained to be soldiers in the
Now they are being told that your
enemies are other Muslims from a neighboring Muslim country, and so there’s a
massive crisis, a big psychological crisis, for lots of soldiers, who are not
fighting. In fact, you often read in the Pakistani press reports—twenty
soldiers surrender, fifty soldiers surrender. And they are surrendering to
groups of four or five armed Taliban or, you know, non-Taliban fighters from
So training more specialized troops
isn’t going to do the trick, if there’s this basic problem, which is, as Juan
was asking earlier, when you have some of these opinion polls, the reason
people say that if there’s a choice between Bush and bin Laden, they’ll back
bin Laden…it’s not because they’re extremists in that sense, but they don’t
like the fact that Pakistan is totally on its knees as a state before
Washington and the United States. It doesn’t argue with the [U.S]. It doesn’t
resist the [
JUAN GONZALEZ: Tariq,
I’d like to ask you, in an article in November, an extensive article on
TARIQ ALI: Well, this was a big
tragedy for this family. But, yeah, I mean, essentially what happened is that when
Murtaza Bhutto returned to the country, their mother,
Nusrat Bhutto, was chairperson of the Pakistan
People’s Party. Benazir was the prime minister of
Now, you know, there was a judicial inquiry into this, where the Murtaza Bhutto’s family lawyers accused Benazir’s husband of being responsible for having organized all this. The judicial inquiry, appointed by Benazir, said that while they couldn’t exactly pin the—you know, point the finger at any one person, there was absolutely no doubt that the murder of Murtaza Bhutto had been organized and ordered from the highest level. Well, you know, they didn’t have to say much more.
And Murtaza’s daughter, Fatima, in an op-ed piece for the LA Times a few weeks—four or five weeks ago, actually accused Benazir’s husband of having carried out her father’s murder eleven years ago. Just before the media, independent media, was taken off the air by Musharraf, one of the largest networks, Geo, was interviewing Benazir and asked her, “How was it that when you were prime minister, your brother lay bleeding to death outside his house? Were you—you know, what did you know about that?” She walked out of the studio.
So this is a very awkward question, but I have studied all the documentation now, and I have little doubt that the murder was ordered at the highest levels.
Whether she knew it was going to happen is an open question. She is the only one who knew, and she is now dead. But there is absolutely no doubt that unless an instruction [came] from someone at Prime Minister’s house, the police force in Karachi would not have killed the prime minister’s brother. Things do not happen that way.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Tariq Ali, about this quote of Senator Barack
Obama’s top campaign strategist, David Axelrod, who
responded to the assassination by highlighting Hillary Clinton’s vote to
TARIQ ALI: Well, I mean, you know, I
think both of them were wrong, quite honestly. I think obviously Hillary
Clinton was foolish, if not crazy, to support the war in
AMY GOODMAN: But the point of Axelrod’s comment [is that he, as] the top strategist for Barack Obama, was responding to the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, saying that here you have the war in Iraq, it diverted us from Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, and now we see the effect of this, responding to Benazir Bhutto. And this has caused a bit of an uproar here—as he’s saying that Hillary Clinton is, you know, partially responsible by supporting the war and then seeing the surge of al-Qaeda in other places.
TARIQ ALI: Well, Amy, I mean, all I
can say to that is, you know, politicians will say anything in the run-up to
the primaries. But let’s assume they hadn’t invaded
But to return to Obama, if you’d had, you know, three times as many
JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to ask Manan Ahmed about the whole issue of the assassination and
also its impact on the Bush administration policies regarding
MANAN AHMED: Right. On the security front, there were lots of reports in local media in the last three or four days about the rally and specific threats made against Benazir Bhutto at that specific rally. And in fact, there was a report issued by the government saying the security at Liaquat Bagh is going to be foolproof and, you know, we’re taking all steps to make sure that she has—you know, that she’s completely secure. So, obviously, you know, reality did not jibe with whatever assertions the government was publicly proclaiming.
But I want to sort of step back a little bit and talk about this notion of how the United States has, since 1951, when Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated, another prime minister of Pakistan, and military regimes were put in place—there has been the—you know, American foreign policy has been towards developing individuals, you know, people that they can sort of work with and trust in these key areas—in Pakistan and other Southeast Asian countries and [elsewhere in] the world. And so, you have a political climate which is geared towards a cult of personality or charismatic leadership, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto being another key example, Benazir’s father, and then Benazir herself when she comes back. And so, a lot of, you know, discussions, such as Tariq Ali [has given], the history that he described about Bhutto’s machinations in power and her turmoil in her family life, goes to the fact that Pakistan was not allowed or did not have an adequate political sort of social structure—political structure throughout its history. So you have these personalities that at some point drop in and drop out, are assassinated, are blown out of the sky, as General Zia-ul-Haq was, and you end up to this day, where Benazir Bhutto is assassinated—the entire foreign policy in the White House hinged on her—there is a complete vacuum of any leadership, outside of her, in that party at the moment.
So, you know, even if elections, as
the White House is saying, that, you know, elections should go forward—which, again,
is ludicrous—on January the 8th, well, who is going to stand in those elections
in terms of leadership, true leadership? There is no one in the People’s Party,
since Benazir sort of gathered all that influence
into her own person, even in exile. And the same situation is true in other
main parties in
So the way forward for the Bush
administration is to support, you know, true democratic reform in
AMY GOODMAN: Tariq
Ali, finally—we have fifteen seconds—what do you see as the future of
TARIQ ALI: Well, I think that
General Musharraf’s days are numbered. He has blown
it. He was entrusted by
AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ali, we have to leave it there. Tariq Ali, British Pakistani historian, activist, and commentator; Manan Ahmed, historian of modern Pakistan and South Asia, blogs at Juan Cole’s Informed Comment, as well as Chapati Mystery.
The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was formed on September 1, 1967. Its program was radical socialist, and a communist leader, J-A Rahim, had written its basic manifesto. Meantime, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto appeared in the political arena as a challenge to the Ayub dictatorship. The communists (both Stalinists and Maoists) were supporting the Ayub dictatorship while Bhutto was representing the masses' feelings.
Bhutto, himself a feudal lord from Sindh, had been a foreign minister in the Ayub Cabinet. Being an intelligent bourgeois politician, he raised the slogan of socialism and joined hands with some leftists to form the PPP. When the Ayub dictatorship started targeting Bhutto, he became a symbol of resistance, strengthening his popularity and his grip on the party. In fact, the PPP's popularity was a sequel to the 1968-69 revolutionary movements.
Even prior to the 1970s first ever-general election on an adult-franchise basis, the masses had joined this party because of its socialist program. The labor leaders who had become powerful and strong because of the 1968 movement joined this party.
The Pakistani left as usual failed to understand the unfolding events. They found a radical bourgeois in Bhutto and started supporting Bhutto. Instead of organizing and launching class struggle, the left developed working class' illusions in Bhutto and the PPP. They reconciled with feudals and capitalists in the PPP and even presented them as leaders. Hence the PPP became a working-class party with feudals as its leaders who used socialist sloganeering.
Instead of organizing the PPP on a
radical socialist program, it was organized on bourgeois democratic basis, which
led to a right wing turn by the party. It was again their ideology that stopped
left organizing [of] the PPP on a revolutionary basis. The left, again, was
When the PPP came to power in 1972,
many communists joined the government. However, the PPP did not bring about any
fundamental change, save some radical reforms. This disillusioned the working
class. The proletariat took to the streets during the period of May-Sept. 1972.
The movement was especially strong in
Disillusioned by Bhutto and the PPP, the left went looking for other more progressive bourgeois figures, leaving the working class, having illusions in PPP, at the mercy of its feudal and capitalist leaders.
The left failed to offer any
alternative during this period. Hence when disillusionment grew, it was right
wing religious fanatics and reactionary forces that became an alternative to
the PPP. In 1977, a movement began against the government spurred by economic
The left termed it a movement for democratic liberties and urged the working class to join it. In a statement from Hyderabad Jail on April 12, 1977, Miraj Mohammad Khan, Sher Mohammad Marri, and Ata Ullah Mengal said: “We appeal to the workers, peasants, students, intellectuals and toiling masses to join the ongoing people’s movement which is a movement of democratic liberties. We believe this movement will rid our motherland of the dictatorship.”
They hoped to rid “our motherland”
of “dictatorship” through religious fundamentalists. Labeling the Bhutto regime
a dictatorship was incorrect, both socially and politically. And the hope of
democracy from religious fanatics backed by the
Their illogical analysis and hopes were soon dashed to the ground when in 1977 a real military dictatorship “rid” the motherland of Bhutto's “dictatorship.” It was the left that suffered worst of all during this military regime led by General Zia Ul Haq.
3. Some Comments on the
1. The romanticized notion about
the current election campaign, where, “after years of military dictatorship, the
masses were striving for a change” is quite off base. The
election was going to be a sham and that was a foregone conclusion. It was
already being referred to in the streets as a “selection” rather than an
2. Several groups, including political
parties, religious parties, lawyers’ groups, human rights groups, etc., had
issued a call for boycotting the elections considering that the jailed lawyers
and judges have still not been released, the courts have been stuffed full of Musharraf's cronies, and the stringent curbs on the press
still remain. In spite of the congratulatory messages from Bush and Co. about
restoration of democracy in
3. It is true that the PPP has some mass base, especially in Sindh. That’s the legacy from her father’s time, and also due to the strong ethnic, linguistic alliances that work well in South Asian politics.
However, she was also despised on
the streets for being a
4. While speculation is rife over
who is behind her assassination, it should be kept in mind that the Pakistani
military in all likelihood had some role to play. The military pretty much runs
the country, and has always opposed the PPP ever since the military dictator
Zia hanged Benazir’s father, Zulfiqar
Ali Bhutto. Earlier this year, in October, when her rally was attacked and 130
people killed—she had claimed that the Pakistani military was behind these
attacks. Given that the carnage happened in
and done, BB’s assassination is a horrendous tragedy
for the Pakistani people. The country is being torn asunder by political
violence and this latest crime comes as a severe blow. There is a good
likelihood that this bout of violence will lead to Musharraf
reinstating Emergency, or the army declaring martial law, or the